Living Messages (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)

Paul puts a lot of pressure on those Thessalonians.  He begins his letter with a whole list of all the wondrous ways they are doing ministry.  Of course, high on that list, is the fact that they are imitating Paul in their willingness to be persecuted and offer themselves as living examples to that end.  Most clergy, these days, are probably glad that the prevailing world empire no longer has coliseums for throwing Christians, or anybody, into lions’ dens.  If we did, it would probably further depress the rates of young people entering seminaries.  But even without the lions, clergy have a difficult task.

Yes, Paul faced lots of issues around the care and feeding of congregations, but even he might be astounded at the expectations of today’s pastor.  A 21st century reverend has got to be team leader, CEO, administrator, public relations expert, spiritual counselor, social worker, mediator and brilliant speaker, storyteller and an all-around great communicator.  They should also be adept with children, babies and older members, and be both young and funny and experienced and wise!  Sometimes pastors’ families feel the stress of being “on display” and pastors are often expected to be always available.

The good news is that support and resources are a phone call away.  Our UCC Conferences have developed programs providing opportunities for clergy to continue to grow and flourish in ministry.  This is good for churches.  This is good for all of us.

Back in 2000, the power of having “Communities of Practice”nurtured in corporate culture was extolled in the pages of the Harvard Business Review.  Such communities provided places for creative employees to gather around topics of joint interest and learn from one another in an organized yet informal small group.  It would be a place where ideas could be shared, people could risk in a safe and confidential setting, and interdepartmental cooperation could be fostered.  This idea is currently at play in many of our UCC Conferences.  Communities of Practice, a part of the Pastoral Excellence Program, are organized around kinds of ministry, and interests of pastors.  Meetings are scheduled by the Conferences.  More than simply support groups, these practice communities work at creating an attitude of discipline an ongoing education around the skills and knowledge needed to be an affective pastor in the 21st century.

For Paul’s world, there was risk to ministry.  That risk was a risk of persecution.  At least for today, our risk is that our clergy will get complacent and burn out from lack of challenge and constant availability.  Communities of Practice are a way to support our ministry together.

Why don’t you ask your pastor if there is a Community of Practice in your Conference for them?

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Praiseworthy Living (Philippians 4:1-9)

Have you ever had a bad fight with a friend?  Can you remember what started it?  Hurt feelings?  Misunderstanding?  Stupidity?  We all have the capacity to act like a jerk–sometimes.  In the busy days and pressure of our own lives, we can be thoughtless.  Each of us can.  None of us is perfect.  None of us has completely pure intentions always.  When mistakes happen, it can be heartbreakingly difficult to disengage and disentangle our feelings for justification.  We want those with whom we are in conflict to stop, turn back, and say, “I’m sorry.  You were right.”

But does that ever happen?  Sometimes we need help to have difficult conversations and to move toward reconciliation.  People that work in conflict resolution and mediation often say that conflicts are rarely resolved, but they are honestly looked at and people find ways to move forward, to work together, and, sometimes, to reconnect and reaffirm the relationship as whole and positive. . .once again.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he specifically mentions two women with ancient and unfamiliar names, Euodia and Syntyche.  (FYI:  If you are called upon to read scripture in worship you can often find biblical names pronounced for you on the Internet.)  We know nothing about these women except that their relationship is in jeopardy.  It must have been especially difficult for Paul because he was writing this letter from prison.  Under normal circumstances, it’s hard to watch people we care about fight, but even harder if you are separated by distance and incapacity.  As Paul’s letter testifies, people within Christian communities do sometimes disagree and sometimes hurt each other.  The question for us, as Christian communities, is not why we fight but how we address disagreements and how we journey toward consensus and hope and just relationships within our congregations.

The Conferences of the United Church of Christ have resources for churches that help us talk to each other through the things that divide us.  The New York and Wisconsin Conferences, among others, have teams of trained mediators ready to help churches.  In 2017, the Southeast Conference of the UCC organized a “Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders.”  This training was available for lay leaders as well as clergy and will be an ongoing Continuing Education opportunity for everyone.  Wherever your church is situated, you will find that your Conference has people and programs to help you through difficulties.

Paul asks the Philippians to help those women because they had struggled with him in the work of the Gospel.  We are all doing the same work.  let hope in reconciliation always be our guide.


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St. John’s UCC Roadsters Trip to the Allen County Museum

Tuesday, September 10, the St. John’s UCC Roadsters traveled to the Seat of Allen County which is Lima, Ohio, for lunch and a tour of the Allen County Museum.

Our lunch reservation was in Downtown Lima at a newly renovated and upscale restaurant titled “The Met”, which is housed in one of Lima’s historical buildings named The Metropolitan.  The Metropolitan building is also home to Nitza’s dress shop.  We could not resist the temptation to stop in at the dress shop to check out the styles and prices before going to lunch. Then we went on to The Met. Most of us agreed that the portions of food were small in comparison to the prices, but the food was good and well prepared.

Our next stop was the MacDonnell House which is owned by the Allen County Museum.  The MacDonnel House was one of the original Victorian homes in Lima and was built by an oil tycoon.  The third owner of the house was James MacDonnell after whom the house is named.  James and his family were world travelers, and the game room displays many of his hunting trophies.  He and his family occupied the house for approximately four years, and eventually the house was acquired by the Allen County Museum.  The MacDonnell House is one of two Victorian mansions remaining on the “Golden Block” of mansions on Market Street in Lima.

The Allen County Museum was our final stop.  The museum is one of twenty-five museums in  Ohio to receive accreditation from the state. It houses three floors of historical memorabilia.

We were impressed with the World War I display which opened recently.  Two members of our tour group were delighted to find a photo of their uncle hanging on the wall with the display of soldiers from Allen County who were killed in battle.  Another photo of World War I Allen County musicians listed three soldiers from the Bluffton area.  Two of the soldier-musicians were the senior Wilbur Bracy and Emmett Stauffer, both from Bluffton, Ohio.

The Shay locomotive and the progression of rail transportation in the Lima area were fascinating.  An authentic electric car, the first in the area, is also housed in the museum. How times have changed!

The first log house in Allen County has been reassembled and is on display in the adjacent museum courtyard.  The person who built the cabin was also the first settler in Allen County. The first settler sired at least 20 children!  He outlived two wives, each of whom bore him 10 and 11 children, respectively.  The docent demonstrated how flax was converted into cloth and highlighted how daily chores were accomplished in those early days.

The children’s garden, located outside the museum, is another fascinating area to explore.  Due to inclement weather, we did not tarry long at the site.  There were numerous paths displaying outdoor plants and children’s games involving the world of nature.

This is a brief overview of all the interesting items housed in the Allen County Museum.  Our docents were very knowledgeable, and we appreciated their depth of history concerning the items in the museum.  The day was very well spent, and we enjoyed our time together.

Do consider joining us for our next road trip.



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Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is another mission project sponsored by the Board of Christian Education. The project includes gifts placed in a shoe box that will be delivered to a child in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way.  For many of these children, the gift-filled shoe box is the first gift they have ever received.  A list of acceptable items to fill the box is available as well.  The shoe boxes should be back to the church by October 22 so they can be taken to our distribution center drop-off, which is Ebenezer Mennonite Church.


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Quilt Auction

An original quilt designed with pieces in Civil War style, was handmade by St. John’s UCC member, Connie Kempf.  Members of St. John’s UCC will be selling raffle tickets priced at $1.00 a piece, or 6 tickets for $5.00. The winner of the raffle will receive the quilt. The raffle is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, January 2, 2018.  The proceeds from the ticket sales will be designated for local missions.

Please be generous with your ticket purchases when someone invites you to buy some. You won’t be disappointed.

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Food Pantry in Need of Supplies

You will notice that the food pantry shelves empty out quickly, especially after the third Saturday distribution takes place.  Out of our abundance, we need to meet the needs of others.  On a Sunday morning, open your cupboard door and pull out a can, box, jar of something and bring it in and place it on the table at the front of the sanctuary.  (Please check expiration dates before bringing in items.)  Thank you!

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Tuesday, October 17–Ladies meet at LuLu’s (9 a.m.); TOPS (6 p.m.)

Wednesday, October 18–Men meet at Arby’s (8:30 a.m.)

Thursday, October 19–St. John’s serves the community dinner at the Senior Center (6 p.m.)

Saturday, October 21–Food pantry distribution (8 a.m.–11 a.m.)

Sunday, October 22–Christmas Shoebox Deadline




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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday,  November 28,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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Facebook Page

You are missing out on a super way to advertise our church if you are not sharing with many of your other Facebook friends St. John’s Facebook page.  There are many interesting articles posted every day.  “Friend” all of your friends and ask them to “Like” the St. John’s page–let’s let people know we are here, alive, and moving forward!

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St Johns Snow

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